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The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world. SavvyExacta is a lifelong animal enthusiast with more than 20 years of experience with horses. Freckles (an English setter) is a frequent topic on the blog. Other CR4 bloggers occasionally add great posts.

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16 comments

Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

Posted June 28, 2013 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta
Pathfinder Tags: ANIMAL SCIENCE birds

It's a little late for most species of birds to be nesting but some, like these cedar waxwings, are still at it. Seeing this bird with such a huge amount of string made me wonder - what else do birds like to use as nesting materials?

This school website has a great chart listing some common bird species and the materials they prefer for nesting. Most of these make sense - the smallest bird on the list likes soft materials; the larger goose prefers to make thing a little bit sturdier by incorporating twigs.

That stuff is ordinary, though, and widely available to most birds. What about the stranger things? This wiseGEEK article lists items such as foil and cigarette butts. Birds have also been known to rip apart things you may have around your yard, like pieces of your welcome mat or the string you've used to mark your garden rows. (Look at this eastern kingbird's stringy home - he stole that from the garden!)

Below is a photo of a nest made from my pony's tail hair. It now decorates my Christmas tree each year.

This blog says that black kites use white plastic littler to line their nests. The white color may intimidate other birds or serve to camouflage their white eggs.

What is the strangest nesting material you've seen?

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#1

Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

06/29/2013 12:45 PM

Strangest nest I ever saw was a crow's nest that had fallen. Probably because of it's weight--Half of it was made out of BARBED WIRE!! The Audubon Society in our area has it on permanent display.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

06/29/2013 10:34 PM

Crows are smarter than the average bear. And many more animals, as well.

A murder of crows is very social, too.

Never seen one of their nests.

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#11
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Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/03/2013 8:43 AM

A murder of crows is very social, too.

We had one field of corn, that the crows when walk right down the rows an pecked each kernel. Each year it got progressively worse.

One year after my dad had to replant a feild, he shot one and left it. crows never bothered that field again.

When I was 9 we had a large crow, that returned every year would always walk around our drive way and yard and was never really afraid and you could walk within 20 feet of it.

An elderly neighbor of ours said they make good pets and tell stories what he did with them when he had one as a kid.

But I'm only repeated what was told to me as a 9 year old.

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#3

Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/01/2013 3:32 AM

Bowerbirds are exceptional when it comes to artfully decorating their nests. There is also significant variation regionally in colors that are in fashion:

.

.

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#4
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Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/01/2013 10:55 AM

Very cool! Thank you for sharing!

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#5
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Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/01/2013 12:28 PM

Many of us were first introduced to these little artist-architects via David Attenborough. Quite relaxing to watch. Broken into 5 parts, part 3 seems missing.

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#6
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Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/01/2013 6:08 PM

I have a DVD of David Attenborough's. Great info on birds all over the world.

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#9
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Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/02/2013 11:30 AM

Yes. It prompted me to pick one of his many to order. I decided on "Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Voyages" because it has a bower bird section plus other interesting subjects. He's been quite prolific in video documenting nature. I have had "Planet Earth," now for a couple of years but haven't watched it yet. This will probably inspire me to do so. He has a child-like appreciation of and fascination with nature.

Also, in searching for available videos, PBS had run 2 in the past on bower birds. One narrated by DA, entitled, "Flying Casanovas." (Nova) This was probably the program that introduced me to bowers. The other was presented as an episode of "Nature" and is entitled "Bower Bird Blues." I wanted to order them but the main "shop PBS" links for them don't work. I called and was told to contact my local affiliate to try to order them. I'm still waiting to hear.

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#7
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Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/01/2013 10:51 PM

Thanks for the link.

My introduction to bowerbirds came from Jared Diamond. Specifically from his book The Third Chimpanzee, though as the title suggests, the book isn't really about birds.

I can also recommend Guns Germs and Steel. I have heard Collapse is also excellent.

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#8
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Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/02/2013 12:05 AM

The former is my next book to read--Must research the latter. Just finished two Lewis and Clark books, the latter being Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage". And to think that Merriwhether Lewis was living at Monticello with Thomas Jefferson, in the late 1790's, for two years being educated in the things that Jefferson wanted to be cataloged for botanists, biologists, geologists etc., during the exploration of the the route of Great Northwest Passage, all more than a half a century before the Civil War... Brings a sense of humility to going out a getting one's cup of coffee in the morning.. Sorry for the off topic , but the categories of never before seen birds are one of the wonders of these books..

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#10
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Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/02/2013 12:03 PM

I download the mp4 files of documentaries like this and watch them at home. The resolution is good enough on most of them (esp. BBC files) for my 37" flatscreen. Most Blu-Ray players will play them from a USB stick (and upconvert, which sometimes helps or not). Many of them may also be available from some streaming service.

I'm pretty sure I've got a copy of The Third Chimpanzee. Finding it is another matter. So many of my books are in storage now and the rest are in bags and boxes and I have only partially cataloged them. It will probably be easier to check it out of the library. Oops! I just checked and it's checked out. I'll put it on my list. I think I've also bought Collapse at one point, too. Again, the library is my best bet. (There is a video entitled, Collapse, but it is unrelated to the book. It provokes conversation, at the least. )

I also checked for Guns, Germs, and Steel in the library and discovered there is a Nat. Geo. documentary based on the book. I'll have a look at that.

Unrelated, but synchronous, to this subject, I checked out several books yesterday about the biology and biochemistry of aging - in both animals and man. So, odd you brought up books about why societies fail. Why does the body fail? A good pairing of subjects.

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#13
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Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/03/2013 9:49 AM

I definitely recommend The Third Chimpanzee as well as Germs Guns and Steel.

Jared Diamond is very thourough in explaining exactly how he has arrived at what he claims. Germs Guns and Steel take a little more to finish than The Third Chimpanzee. I have seen videos by Jared Diamond with the same titles as the books and I found the videos worthwhile, but no substitute for the books.

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#12
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Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

07/03/2013 8:52 AM

David Attenborough, my girlfriend found allot of his documentaries on You Tube.

Great voice and enjoyed it immensely.

A little trivia, his family is quite talented, his brother Richard starred in quite a few large block buster movies….. like Jurassic Park……… a little off topic……. No, not really…… dinosaurs are birds too..

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07/03/2013 11:33 AM

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#15

Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

08/04/2013 1:37 PM

Around our net shop the House Wrens all have taken to using cut bits of twine for their ugly little nests. the green, blue, red, black and white threads can be seen when one of the little critters builds a nest out in the open. Due to the amount of cats I keep on hand to discourage the mice that visit us... the wrens build their nests out of normal line of sight.

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#16

Re: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials

12/19/2013 3:20 AM

Some of the aircraft maintenance hangers I've worked in had resident pigeons that use SS safety lock wire for nesting material. This stuff ranges from 0.020 up to 0.060 and the cut ends are as sharp hypodermic needles! And being Stainless Steel, they're indestructible, built to last!

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